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Democrats lean on doctors as credible messengers on abortion

Democrats in close races are increasingly leaning on doctors to operate a vehicle messaging on abortion, betting their credibility will interest bipartisan audiences and help center a polarizing political debate around safe practices.

Why it matters: Healthcare professionals aren’t your typical political surrogates, however the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade reversal has changed the midterms playbook for both parties.

The most recent: Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) introduced a national 15-week abortion ban Tuesday in a bid to unite Republicans around a standard position, weeks after arguing the problem ought to be left to the states.

  • The bill uses the non-medical phrase “late-term abortion” in its title and pledges to “protect pain-capable unborn children,” occasionally citing contested medical assertions.
  • Democrats see doctors as trusted voices who is able to assist in the political fight abortion bans by convincing voters that GOP positions aren’t medically sound.

What’s happening: Some doctors enraged by the high court’s Dobbs decision that reversed Roe say they felt compelled to surface in political ads this season for the very first time.

  • Emily Hyatt a crisis medicine doctor who lives in Kansas but works in Missouri told Axios she recently volunteered to greatly help Rep. Sharice Davids’ (D-Kan.) campaign when it had been seeking a health care provider for an abortion ad.
  • With significantly less than 24 hours’ notice, Hyatt found a colleague to cover her ER shift so she could film. “I’ve been somebody who doesn’t desire to talk politics,” she said. “But this is actually the hill I’ll die on.”

The picture as a whole: Kansas became ground zero for post-Roe politics after voters rejected an anti-abortion constitutional amendment that would’ve stripped protections from the state’s constitution.

  • Now doctors and nurses are weighing in to the abortion debate in contests across Georgia, Michigan, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Missouri, Tennessee, New Hampshire and Hawaii.
  • The dynamic is particularly pronounced in governor’s races, where abortion rights are at risk.

State of play: The Democratic nominees for governor in Hawaii, New Hampshire and Tennessee are physicians who’ve made abortion a central pillar of these campaigns.

  • In Georgia, local doctors convened with hawaii Democratic Party last month “to speak on the dangers Gov. Brian Kemps extreme abortion ban poses” to medical care system and providers.
  • Several doctors called out Pennsylvania’s Republican nominee for governor, Doug Mastriano, on the problem last month, with one physician flatly stating that the candidate’s position on abortion “goes against established medicine.”

Between your lines: Some Democratic campaigns have seized on abortion bans that could criminalize healthcare providers who continue steadily to perform the task.

  • The Democratic Governors Association’s latestad againstMichigan’s Republican nominee Tudor Dixon attacks her for supporting the states 1931 abortion ban, emphasizing its penalties for doctors and nurses.
  • An organization backed by DGA highlighted exactly the same issue within an early general election ad against Wisconsin’s GOP nominee Tim Michels, citing his support for an 1849 law that “jailed doctors” who performed abortions.

What they’re saying: Rep. Kim Schrier (D-Wash.), the only real pro-abortion rights woman doctor in Congress, told Axios she sees herself as a “secret weapon” for Democrats particularly if some Republicans “want to paint Democrats as barbarians.”

  • “Personally i think like I’m holding the line here, and my voice is essential because it posesses credibility when I could say that as a pediatrician, I have already been in the area,” she said.

Another side: You can find over twelve GOP doctors in Congress, but Republicans in competitive races are usually steering from the abortion debate as polls suggest it might drive Democratic turnout.

  • Dr. Mehmet Oz, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, describes himself as “strongly pro-life” but opposes criminal penalties for patients and doctors who perform abortions.

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